As another World Series winds down without — for the 70th consecutive year — the trophy being presented to the Indians, a sudden, sullen thought occurs:
What is it with the Indians and the postseason in this century?
The good news: they’ve been there six times, including three in a row, and four in the last six years.
The bad news: they never win it all, and they have their hearts ripped out while trying. It’s a morbid, melancholy tale, filled with equal parts excitement and excrement. Of triumph and truncation. Titillation and toodle-oo.
It’s the baseball embodiment of Groucho’s musical ode to adios, “Hello, I Must Be Going.”
In this century, when it comes to the postseason, the Indians are the Barons of Bye-Bye, the Viscounts of Vanish, the Earls of Exit, the Emperors of Egress.
They get there, and then they get out, when the getting is bad. They’re gone before the train reaches the station:
- 2001: In the ALDS, they led Seattle 2-1 then lost two in a row to get expunged.
- 2007: In the ALCS, they led Boston 3-1, then lost three in a row to get expunged.
- 2013: Playing at home in the wild-card game, against Tampa Bay, they failed to score a run and lost 4-0.
- 2016: In the World Series, they led the Cubs 3-1, then lost three in a row, the last two at home, the last one in extra innings.
- 2017: In the ALDS, they led the Yankees 2-0, then lost three in a row to get expunged.
- 2018: In the ALDS they were swept, and expunged, in three games by Houston.
Granted, the team that wins the World Series is the only team that doesn’t lose its last game in the postseason every year. So the fact that the Indians, who haven’t won the World Series since 1948, have lost their last postseason series every year they’ve made it since then is not the point.
The point is how they lost. In their six trips to the postseason in this century they played a total of 12 games in which if they’d won that game they would have won the World Series, advanced to the World Series or advanced to the next round of the postseason.
The Indians’ record in those games: 0-12.
The only postseason series that was the last one they played in a given year in this century in which the Indians didn’t get their hearts ripped out was this year, when they got their brains beat in, losing three straight to Houston by a cumulative score of 21-6 in a totally non-competitive ALDS expungement.
Even if you include the 2007 Division Series vs. the Yankees, in which the Indians went 1-1 in potential clinching games, before winning and moving on, and, in 2016, the ALDS sweep of Boston and ALCS win in five games over Toronto, two series that the Indians won and moved on, their record in all potential series-clinching games this century is still only 2-14, and they’ve been outscored 94-43.
The 2001 Mariners won 116 games, tying the 1906 Cubs for the major league record, but when the 91-win Indians routed Seattle 17-2 in Game 3 of the ALDS, the Indians had a 2-1 lead in the series. But Seattle rallied to win 6-2 and 3-1 to win the series.
In 2007, the Indians led Boston 3-1, and were playing at home with their ace, CC Sabathia, on the mound in the potential clinching game. But they lost 7-1, then got routed twice in Boston 12-2 and 11-2. Making the expunction even more painful for the Indians was that Boston then swept Colorado in the World Series.
In 2013, the Indians finished the regular season on a 10-game winning streak, a 15-2 run and a 21-6 record in September to earn home-field advantage in the wild-card game, only to lay a giant egg at home, losing 4-0 to Tampa Bay.
In 2016, with the best bullpen in baseball, the Indians steamrolled the Red Sox and Blue Jays in the first two series, winning seven of the eight games. They extended their streak to 10-4 by jumping out to a 3-1 World Series lead over the Cubs before, well, you know.
In 2017, the Indians should have won it all. They won 102 games, including an American League-record 22 in a row. They were the best team in baseball and were 5-1 in the regular season against eventual World Series champs Houston. But they never got to Houston because they blew a 2-0 ALDS lead by losing three straight to the Yankees. Expunged yet again.
This year: a rude three-game bum’s rush from the Astros.
The ultimate “Hello, I must be going.”
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